Being Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes Was The Best Thing To Happen For My Health
My body has served as my own personal battlefield for the majority of my life.
Growing up, I was a fat child. Well, sometimes I was thin, but mostly I was fat. This was a problem for everyone in my life, from my peers who made fun of me simply because they could, to my parents who despite hating my weight, fed me a steady diet of fried foods and Kool-Aid. Looking through pictures of myself back then, I see myself for what I truly was: a chubby kid with a little bit of baby fat. But back then, I felt like a monster. I can still remember getting into arguments with my mother over the amount of food I was consuming. “You just ate an orange!” she would shout. “But I’m still hungry,” I would say in response as I reached for the top of the refrigerator for a bag of chips. Other times I looked on embarrassed and ashamed as my mother made fun of overweight people in public with disgust in her voice. I’d wonder, “Is that what she thought of me?”
As puberty hit, my weight moved up and down, reaching a high in middle school that gained me the reputation of the fat girl in my circle of friends. Things smoothed out, however, the summer before high school when puberty hit in full effect. I started exercising more, and somehow managed to lose around 15 pounds. The reception from family and friends was immediate. Suddenly I was being praised for my slimmer body, boys were hitting on me, and family members were telling me what a wonderful young lady I was growing up to be. I liked the attention and can now pinpoint it as one of the first instances of me truly understanding how important looks really are in society. I took it to heart, which I now realize was unhealthy.
The celebration over my weight-loss was short-lived as I quickly gained some of the weight back. I’d try to control my weight in unconventional ways over extended periods of time, including with failed stints of bulimia and calorie restriction. And while things had mostly stabilized by the time I went to college, a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits was hard to shake. I ended up indulging in carbohydrates, fast food and liquor, gaining the freshman 40. Just as I had gotten used to being somewhat thin, I was back in the plus-sizes again.
To make matters worse, I had developed sleep apnea, and my period disappeared for nearly a year. Knowing something had to give, I hit the gym, stabilizing my weight for a bit, but ultimately never for too long. Overall, I spent most of my twenties losing and gaining the same 40 pounds.
It was while living in Korea that my health issues came to a head with a pesky yeast infection that wouldn’t go away. Just when I thought I was in the clear, the fire in my crotch would come back, landing me back at the doctor’s office. This song and dance persisted for months until I scheduled an emergency visit to a clinic while on a vacation in New Orleans. After having my blood taken and tested, the nurse looked at me puzzled and asked, “Do you have diabetes?” I responded with a hesitant no. But that wouldn’t cut it.
“Your blood sugar is pretty high,” she replied.
A few weeks later, upon moving to China, I would receive my official diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. I was crushed. I felt like a failure, a statistic, and nothing more than another overweight fat, Black woman. I had been thin before, so I clearly knew the tools necessary to get back down. How could I have let it get so bad? I sulked around for a few days, thinking my life was over and berating myself for not being the perfect picture of health.
But after the pity party was over, I decided to get real with myself. I found the initiative to do research on the type of foods I’d need to start consuming, and which ones to avoid. With an immediate goal of getting my blood sugar levels down quickly, I started on the diabetes medication metformin, changed my eating habits, and began an exercise program. Over the next few months, I shed the weight at a slow and steady pace, and this time my weight-loss journey was different. Instead of getting frustrated by my slow progress or perceived inability to get an Instagram model body in record time, my weight loss had a higher purpose. Re-focusing and prioritizing health helped me to stay the course. And as I would find out, when I kept on track, certain things came naturally body wise.
Three years after my initial diagnosis, I’m still not the slimmest I’ve ever been, but I am relatively healthy. With proper eating habits and moderate exercise, I’ve managed to keep the weight off and keep my blood sugar levels stabilized. Upon being diagnosed, I thought life as I knew it was over, and in a sense it was. I’ve come to the understanding that no, I can’t just eat whatever I want at all times, but I’ve also come to the realization that not being able to indulge in junk food isn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, it’s kind of the best thing to happen to me. Though I’m not perfect by any means, and do have my slip-ups here and there, Type 2 diabetes was the wake up call I needed to finally take my health seriously for my sake alone.